In a dance industry where events come and go on the competition and convention circuit, Hollywood Connection stands out because dancers keep coming back. According to general manager and faculty member Jacquelyn Sutkowi, the secret to the company’s success lies in the familial atmosphere that makes the faculty and staff approachable. “We recognize faces and people; you really are more than a number,” explains Sutkowi. “A lot of our faculty and staff have been around for a long time, and, as a result, it feels like everyone is very comfortable, welcoming and here for the same reason: to learn and grow together.” As the team prepares to kick off its 20th-anniversary season, Hollywood Connection is unveiling exciting new plans to continue building connections.
Ignite a Passion
Every convention weekend, Hollywood Connection hosts Broadway Babies—a stepping-stone program for 5- and 6-year-olds that introduces them to the convention experience. “We put on a mini musical centered around a Broadway show,” says Sutkowi. Dancers learn three routines, get dressed up in costumes, and perform their musical at the beginning of the competition on Saturday. “That way, they have a full live audience and video and photos of their performance,” she says. “This year, we’re bringing Broadway Babies to Nationals for the first time, so those young dancers will have the chance to experience the bigger stage and lights, and see some special guests.”
No Ego, Just Dance
According to Sutkowi, Hollywood Connection is all about the love of dance, not the stars and fame. As a result, it’s kicking off its 20th season by adding Hollywood Connection Bootcamp to its list of events. “Bootcamp will be similar to a convention weekend event, but without the competition,” says Sutkowi. “It will be a transformative weekend for dancers to immerse themselves and focus on training.” At Bootcamp, Hollywood Connection hopes to help dancers build endurance, boost creativity and dive a little deeper than a convention weekend generally allows. The first-ever HC Bootcamp will take place in Anaheim, California, September 22–24, 2023. And, looking ahead to 2024, the team will be adding a second event in Las Vegas, giving studios more flexibility in scheduling and dancers another opportunity to grow and perform.
This year, Hollywood Connection is adding a new award to its arsenal: a perfect-score medal. “We had a soloist hit that mark last year,” says Sutkowi. “That does not happen often, so we decided we needed something special to mark the occasion.” The new award will be called the Black Onyx, and Hollywood Connection will reserve it for competition numbers that receive a perfect score from the judges.
An Eye Toward the Future
A unique aspect of Hollywood Connection is that its executive director, Bill Bohl, is also the co-owner of two talent agencies: DDO Artists Agency and The Movement Talent Agency. Every weekend, Bohl runs the convention auditions. For the oldest group of dancers, he provides age-appropriate content and context and tough love to help them understand the ins and outs of dance auditions. “Students at Regionals are selected for a pre-qualifying award that allows them to audition for agency representatives at Nationals,” Sutkowi says. “At Nationals, a select few are chosen for representation.”
While signing with an agency is a huge leap for pre-professional dancers and their guardians, Sutkowi emphasizes that the faculty and staff at Hollywood Connection can answer questions about what it really means to have representation. “Everyone at our event is an educator,” she states, adding that everything they do is about giving dancers tools to help them on their journey.
Some of Sutkowi’s favorite moments from her 18 seasons with Hollywood Connection come from watching dancers make memories and create a dance family beyond their individual studios. “I have seen kids meet on the dance floor when they are little and, years later, go off to college to dance together and become roommates,” she says. “We also see commercials choreographed by a Hollywood Connection faculty member with three dancers who met that choreographer through years of attending the convention—it is all about building those connections.”
Ultimately, Sutkowi says that everyone at Hollywood Connection is in it to build positive futures for the dancers in attendance. “Dance brings so much joy,” she says. “We want kids to come, fill their hearts with dance and remember why they love it.” For more information on upcoming locations and dates of Hollywood Connection events, click here.